NOVEMBER 19TH MARKS the five-year anniversary of the Men for Honor’s Sharing of Language class. Twice a month, twenty-five Hispanic prisoners, led by inmate facilitators Jessie Trujillo and Hilario Arroyo, gather inside the Facility ‘A’ education department where they share their experiences that steered them to crime and prison. “The men come here because they want help, then they learn we all have similar stories that got us in trouble: like dysfunctional households, alcoholic parents, even child abuse.” Says Trujillo.
The original intent for Sharing of Language was to create a safe space to teach English to the Spanish speaking population. For years, the Hispanic community has been grossly underserved on Facility ‘A’. Before Sharing of Language, the only Spanish-speaking program was a Sunday Church service. Sharing of Language has evolved into a support group where the participants can learn and grow from their peers without the stigma of a language barrier.
The group celebrated its milestone with certificates, food, and drinks. Special guest’s speakers from Healing Dialogue and Action Director, Javier Stauring, along with Brenda and Juanita, both survivors effected by violent crime, were in attendance. Sebastian, a class participant sharing his experience reflected, “My turning point came while I was in the Segregation Housing Unit, I realized that I was hurting my parents and I made a promise I would do good, I would change.” This October, Sebastian was found suitable for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings and is waiting to be released after twenty-two years of incarceration. “I am happy I came here—its classes like these that helped me change. I was surprised how everyone wanted to help me succeed.” Sebastian is the first Sharing of Language participant found suitable for parole. What makes Sharing of Language so unique is the fact that participation is voluntary—the men come because they want to change, they want rehabilitation. –Allen Burnett
To learn more about Healing Dialogue and Action or information about how you can support Sharing of Language, visit www.healingdialgueandaction.org